When she was a child, Karrilah couldn't wait for the day when she would be old enough to join her tribe in cattle raids against their neighbors. At age fourteen, she switched her own practice spear for her elder brother's real one and snuck with them on a raid. It was the summer before her sixteenth birthday that she captured her first slave, but when the dust settled and she looked into the scared little boy's eyes, she just didn't get it. He was so like her, they were both of the Peoples, they both called on Ahlat for courage, for victory and for the stength of the Hecatomb. Surely, there must be something greater in this world than rustling cattle and taking other harborheadites for slaves. The very next day, she set off to the Fane of the Upswept Horns.
She gave her love and her fealty to Ahlat, and once more she felt like she was part of something that was not only greater than herself, but truly great. She fought the enemies of her god, and the enemies of her country. She defended the life of the Leopard and the honour of her order. But as time went on, a nagging feeling in the back of her mind grew; there is something wrong in Harborhead, and that something is personified in Cathak Voper, the Imperial Satrap.
There was little she could do about the satrap, the legion, the dragonblooded and the Realm entirely. In fact, there was nothing she could do, and so she let her malcontent fester and drove herself to do better, to be stronger, to serve her people and her god. She was among the best in an order that only accepted the very best, a single thrust of her spear could kill a man twice her size, her voice could rally a breaking mob and her ferocity could lead them to victory against a superior force. She was honoured by her sisters and favoured by her god. One of the times His war aurochs visited her, He even blessed her with a son. Shortly after he was born, her son was taken to the House of Battles to be raised as a priest of Ahlat, and she saw him only rarely.
As her twenty-seventh birthday neared, Karrilah prayed more earnestly than she had in a life dedicated to her god. She prayed for Him to let her stay with her sisters. Everyone expected it, if she was completely honest with herself, she expected it too. But the day came and the god was silent. They let her stay for another week, just in case there had been a misunderstanding of some sort. There had not.
She took off her kilt, her tassled cloak and her turban, and she knew she could never put them on again. She put on the strange, unfamiliar clothes of a... a civilian and walked out the great doors of the Fane of the Upswept horns. Somehow, the sun's light seemed less golden and more harsh. Somehow, the sounds of her city seemed more chaotic, less like a heartbeat and more like a cry. Karrilah looked around and had no idea what her place in the world was.
There are around fifteen thousand brides of Ahlat. They are between the ages of sixteen and twenty-seven, except for a few who stay on longer and become officers. It does not take an exceptional mind to see that this means that every year, around a thousand highly trained and deadly women lose their place in the world and will be greatful for a suggestion as to what new place they can find. It does, however, take an exceptional mind to recruit said women into a mercernary company without insulting them or making the imperial satrap and general feel threatened.
The guildswoman Swiftly Flowing Brook has such a mind, and she had been working this scheme for a few years when Karrilah left the Brides. It was very simple, Shiara, another former bride a few years Karrilah's elder, approached her and told her what life outside was like. You could go back to your tribe and lead petty amateurs in cattle raids against other Harborheadites, and occasionally other former Brides. You could join the regular army and be the only one with a sense of dicipline, the only one who didn't casually take petty bribes from the Realm when they wanted things done in a certain way, the only one who was, frankly, worth a damn. And in a few years, you wouldn't be that any more. But, she said, there was an alternative; the Furies, a company of women like her, a company of those who still honoured Ahlat in furious battle, who fought with the strength that comes from unity and, Shiara added in a low voice, who were ready to kick the Realm out on their asses when they got the chance. In short, it was pretty much like the Brides, except that Ahlat himself never dropped by and the pay and food was better.
Karrilah spent a few days in doubt, but in the end, she joined up, there was simply nowhere else that would suit her. They gave her a kilt, a shield, a spear and the smile on her face. Sure, the kilt was black and orange instead of black and red, sure the pattern was inverted, sure the shield featured a furious warrior-woman rather than a leopard, but it didn't matter much, a spear is a spear and the camaraderie was the same, the feeling was the same. At least until they put her on a ship bound for the Scavenger Lands. The first few days of stormy sea were more harrowing than any battle and the biting cold everywhere was sharper than any blade. But when she joined battle side by side with her sisters, it didn't matter that their foes were from a strange land, when they offered up the hetacomb to Ahlat, it didn't matter that the cattle looked different, and when they met the Exalted in battle, she knew she was preparing for kicking the Realm out of her homeland in a way she could never do there.
Lariadon was a small Ledaal satrapy near the spring of the Avarice river. It was relatively wealthy due to the presence of gold in its northern hills, but of little to no strategic importance. For too long its people had suffered under Imperial rule, for too long their best and brighest had left with their gold for Greyfalls or the Blessed Isle itself. The Empress was gone and with her the unchallenged nature of the Realm's power. And so, they dug deep into their pockets and hired an army. The battle for the capital between the Furies and the small Ledaal garrison led by a single half-senile old dragonblooded and a mortal satrap was hardly a battle at all. The push north to the gold mines was one long stalling operation, but the actual resistance was hardly a threat at all. But when they stood beneath the hills and looked up at the fortified mine camps, everything changed. This time it was not one old man, it was a Sworn Brotherhood of Princes of the Earth in their prime. The wood aspect shot an arrow through Shiara's eye at a thousand paces. The fire aspect's raging anima turned the former brides to crisp even as his Daiklave cut them to pieces. Karrilah led the charge against the earth aspect and his mortal followers' position. As she screamed her warcry and was carried forward by the voices of her sisters, she saw the earth move beneath them, splitting them up and sending them falling to the ground. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the water aspect move through them as a ghost, untouchable and killing with a gesture. She saw this and knew that they were dead.
But she did not falter. She did not hesitate. She cried Ahlat's name once more and heard her sisters do the same. She lifted her spear high and charged with redoubled haste, and she knew her sisters did the same. When she lept across the barricade, she knew her spear should shatter, that she herself should fall on the ground and be crushed beneath the Imperial Heel and the earth aspect's goremaul. But she was unafraid, she was undaunted, in her mind this man became Cathak Voper, he became the Realm, he became everything wrong in Harborhead, in Creation, and there was nothing she could do, but strike him down. And with a strength she did not know she had, she pushed the spear through his neck, blood was everywhere and with a roar of fury she lunged his corpse into the water aspect, shattering every bone in his body.
The rest of the battle was fought beneath the shining standard of the four-armed golden bull of Karrilah's anima banner, and it was fought far more swiftly than anyone could have anticipated. When she turned to speak to her sisters, they were already beating their spears against their shields in her honour. As her words told them of the future, of how they would reclaim Harborhead and spread the glory of Ahlat and the Unconquered Sun to all Creation, the beating became a roar that shook the earth.
When she told Swiftly Flowing Brook that they were going back the Kirighast, the rising sun was still shining on her forehead, and the guildswoman had but look into her eyes and those of the other Furies to know that there was little to do but nod and make sure they got paid before leaving. Brook was the one who found out why house Ledaal fought so fiercely for the mine, but not for the capital. In the deepest tunnel of the central shaft, they had struck the dream of gold miners everywhere. Orichalcum. With the solar anathema returning, house Ledaal judged it imperative to keep it from them. The irony of that defense leading to such an exaltation caused the otherwise terse guildswoman to give a rare chuckle. She took their payment in that most valueable of metals and set their course south.
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